Dialog Box

Arts | History | Human Rights
The Witch of Kings Cross

Genius or crank? Rosaleen Norton was the most persecuted, prosecuted and daring female artist in Australian history.

In 1950’s Sydney, artist Rosaleen Norton becomes a media sensation when the police confiscate her paintings and charge her with obscenity. Initially, she plays along, hoping the publicity would help sell paintings. But before long, allegations of satanic rituals, unexplained murders and sex orgies hit the headlines. Her lover, the famous conductor Sir Eugene Goossens’ career is destroyed in the crossfire between a cop intent on jailing her and a journalist desperate for a scoop. At the vanguard of feminism and the counter culture revolution, Rosaleen Norton was persecuted for her dangerous ideas that now appear prophetic. 

Ultimately, the film is an inspirational story of a brave woman who dared to be different. 


How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?

The Witch of Kings Cross explores provocative themes at the zeitgeist of contemporary society. 

CENSORSHIP. Importantly, the film holds a mirror up to a blinkered, fearful society, which didn't value freedom of expression or alternate religions. In many ways, Rosaleen's story offers haunting parallels to the modern world, where many hard-won rights are again being whittled away.

FREEDOM OF RELIGION. Paganism is the fastest growing religion in the western world, and a hot topic. Rosaleen Norton worshipped Pan, the God of nature. She was openly critical of conservative society’s obsession with consumerism and wrote of ‘devolution’, where the more civilized man would become, the more he would destroy the natural world. In a world threatened by climate change, such thoughts now seem prophetic.

POWERFUL WOMEN. Rosaleen Norton was labelled and demonized by the media in a classic witch-hunt. The demonization of outspoken and powerful women still happens today. In recent years Australia’s first woman Prime Minister was subjected to the chants of “ditch the witch”, a phrase eagerly adopted by the media. Rosaleen talked openly about her liberated views on sexuality and although she was arrested for her paintings, it was her sex life that the police objected to most. The film explores the notion of the witch-hunt as well as the role of the 'monstrous feminine' in society.

ART HISTORY. Rosaleen Norton was the first female artist to be charged with obscenity. She was the only artist in Australian history to have works destroyed by court order. This was a significant moment in Australian art history, yet history only acknowledges her as the evil woman who destroyed a great man. Today there is a resurgence of interest in her art, particularly in the USA. 

“Women have always been an equal part of the past. We just haven’t been a part of history.” Gloria Steinem.

Aims & Objectives

What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?

The film will tell an entertaining narrative, while taking the viewer into Norton’s incredible spiritual world. We plan to communicate Rosaleen’s philosophies and connection with nature, which were ahead of her time. The film will ask questions rather than answer them, and in doing that, will become an artwork in it's own right.

Why now?

The true story of Rosaleen Norton has never been told. Those who know it or were participants in her journey are elderly and slipping away. We have already filmed many of the interviews, including original coven members and friends, such as a 100-year-old dancer, Eileen Kramer. But some have sadly passed, including author and academic, Dr Nevill Drury. Nevill died six weeks after we filmed him. Such oral history needs to be captured.

The era of bohemian Kings Cross is also a fascinating and relatively unexplored period in Australian history.

The impact will be measured by the size and diversity of the audience reach, by the topics debated and the quality of the debates, by the feedback from audiences, critics, media, historians and social commentators.

What is your education and outreach strategy?

We envisage a tightly controlled release strategy for the film. The film will premiere at international film festivals. We will target festivals in the USA, Europe and Australia that appreciate creative innovative approach. 

In Australia and New Zealand we are partnering with impact agency, Goodship, who will publicize and distribute the film in festivals, cinemas, art galleries, museums, universities and host community screenings with a diverse range of special interest groups. Goodship will work closely with Transmission Films, our distributor for DVD and digital platforms. Transmission will manage the rights for Home Video, VOD, SVOD, Pay Tv, Free Tv, airlines, hotels and ships.

Sonia Bible
Peter Butt and Sonia Bible
Total budget
85 Minutes